CHN: Congress Approves Trade Legislation

Articles from August 2, 2002
Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Fails in Senate
After two weeks of debate and votes on four separate bills, the Senate failed to pass legislation creating a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. Currently, Medicare does not cover prescription drugs that patients take outside hospitals. According to a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and others, nearly a quarter of seniors said that they skipped doses of prescription drugs or did not buy the medications they needed in 2001 because costs were too high.

Congress Adjourns for Recess Without Addressing TANF
The Senate adjourned August 2 for a month-long recess, leaving the reauthorization of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) – the 1996 law that created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program – as unfinished business. Set to expire on September 30, 2002, TANF provides critical assistance to low-income populations, including cash benefits and various work supports. A busy floor schedule and competing reauthorization proposals, however, have stalled movement in the Senate, delaying final action on a bill.

Terrorism Insurance Bill To Be Considered After August Recess – PAGE NOT FOUND
Conference committee negotiators for a terrorism insurance measure – legislation that would provide federal monies to the property and casualty industry to cover future terrorism-related losses – were appointed the week of July 22, as the one year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington approaches. The conference was being held up by disagreements among senators over who should negotiate for that chamber. The measure (HR 3210) is expected to be considered in September; however, major differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill may hinder conference talks.

Senate Committee Approves FY 2003 Agriculture Appropriations
On Thursday, July 25, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $74.6 billion agriculture spending measure (S 2801) for fiscal year 2003 by a vote of 29-0. The Senate’s version of the agriculture bill exceeds both last year’s budget of $74.5 billion and the $74.3 billion approved by the House Appropriations Committee July 11.

Senate Committee Approves VA-HUD Appropriations Bill
The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the fiscal year 2003 appropriations bill for the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development (VA-HUD) Departments on July 25, clearing the way for full Senate approval after the August recess. The measure (S 2797) appropriates $32.1 billion overall for HUD, $634 million more than the President requested.

Congress Approves Trade Legislation
Congress has passed a controversial trade package that would grant President Bush fast-track trade negotiating authority and among other things, expands subsidized health insurance and job-training benefits for workers displaced by foreign competition. House and Senate conferees completed work on the bill (HR 3009) last week, after agreeing on the details of a $12 billion expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs and on a refundable health insurance tax credit that would cover 65 percent of the health insurance premiums of trade-displaced workers. An amendment contained in the Senate version of the bill that would have allowed senators to change trade agreements that violate U.S. anti-dumping laws was replaced with a provision mandating that the president consult with Congress before reaching a trade deal that would affect U.S. trade laws. President Bush has indicated that he will sign the bill soon.

Job Training and Education
Labor and Employment